Town Board Meeting: January 28, 201911 min read
Hello, neighbors, and happy Friday! I apologize for the tardiness of this recap – while my goal is always to provide these within 24 hours of a meeting, this week I had to catch a flight out a few hours after our meeting ended, and this week has been a bit of a whirlwind since. I am very much looking forward to a chance to breathe and catch up on my emails this weekend 🙂
The meeting began with an executive session that was closed to the public, in which the Board consulted with one of our Town Attorneys about our oil & gas strategy and also about negotiations approaches for some potential land acquisitions. Back in our December Town Board Retreat, we identified acquisition of land as a priority for this year, so I am glad that we are moving forward to try to make this happen!
Board Reports and Public Comments
During our Board reports, I’ve previously made it a priority to describe the email topics that our Board is receiving, so that you may file open records requests if there is a topic of interest. After talking to our Mayor, in the interest of time, I will not be reading out the list of topics in these Board meetings, but will instead be reporting the email topics here on my blog. In the last two weeks, we received emails on several items slated for Monday night’s agenda: Weldona / 88th street closure, health dangers of 5G wireless (items 7D and 7E), and the process for easement vacations (item 7E). We also received emails about a number of issues not on our agenda: a Coal Creek Riverwalk, the Jefferson Parkway plans, the Safe Superior Citizen Action Group, marijuana business in Superior, Remington Homes landscaping in Coal Creek Crossing, Tesla job cuts, oil & gas, pool rental fees, Coal Creek Meals on Wheels, the women’s march in Denver, and Rocky Mountain Municipal Airport noise.
Finally, on the topic of email – I want to make sure that people are aware of our Board’s policy on public comments, which was adopted in 2017 (link here). As all of us have full-time jobs outside of our service to the public as Trustees, it’s not always possible for us to read emails that are sent shortly before meetings. As such, we have resolved that we will ensure we read all emails sent by 12pm MT the day before a meeting, but that anything sent after that may or may not be considered. In Monday night’s meeting, there were a lot of emails that came in the day of, including half a dozen that were sent in the last 30 minutes before our meeting (when most of us were in transit to the meeting) – so I would guess that not everyone on the Board got to read these emails prior to the meeting. Consider this a PSA to ensure that you send any emails by 12pm the day prior to a meeting to ensure that your voice is heard prior to a decision 🙂
During the initial public comment period that opened the public meeting, we had residents speak up about the design of the permanent closure of Weldona and 88th Street, and residents who wanted the Board to reconsider the small cell partnership with Verizon because of the health risks potentially posed by a 5G network.
We moved onto the consent agenda – typically, this is comprised of items that are fairly straightforward and are voted on without discussion. However, Board members always have the option to pull things from the consent agenda to ask questions or have discussion. On Monday, several items ended up being pulled from the consent agenda for discussion; after doing so, we decided to table item 7E (a proposed change in our ordinance around wireless communications facilities) until a future meeting after we can get additional guidance from Staff and our Town Attorney. And while Trustee Ken Lish pulled item 7F (a proposed change to our process for vacation of easements), it was simply to clarify after following up with Staff that this is a rare occurrence (once a year or so), that the Planning Commission Chair and Vice Chair supported the resolution, and that most other municipalities don’t go through this extra review either. The Board had received several emails express concerns about this, so I was pleased that Trustee Lish made these clarifications; the resolution then passed unanimously.
Public Hearing for Liquor License for Element Hotels
First up on the regular agenda was a public hearing for a liquor license for the Element Hotel, which is expected to open in the Superior Town Center in April. Trustee Lish recused himself, because his wife had signed the petition indicating that she was in support of the application. Trustee Kevin Ryan noted that the manager currently listed on the application has an out-of-state address; the applicant responded that the manager has not yet been hired and she will come back before the Board for approval once this hiring decision is made. Finally, I asked a lot of questions around if / how alcohol would be allowed outside of the main bar area (e.g., in the pool, in a lounge for loyalty program members, etc). The Board voted unanimously to approve this application.
Approval of a Master Lease Agreement with Verizon for Small Cell Facilities
Earlier in the meeting, when we pulled 7E from the consent agenda, the Board chose to table the ordinance to update the town code for wireless facilities. However, a representative from Verizon was still in attendance to speak about their specific proposed master lease agreement (MLA). She answered high-level questions about the frequency of the wavelengths posed by Trustee Neal Shah, and told us that Verizon is initially looking to deploy the small cells with 4G technology rather than 5G. Trustee Mark Lacis asked when we could expect to see 5G in Superior, and the Verizon representative didn’t have that information; 5G is not currently available anywhere in Colorado. I asked whether we could add a condition that this approval is for 4G only and Verizon would need to come back when they want to upgrade to 5G, and the Verizon representative said this certainly wouldn’t be ideal for Verizon. Our acting Town Attorney Dan Harvey said a condition like this might be tough to negotiate and we’d need to look into it further.
Installation of the small cells would follow a hierarchy: tier 1 is for installation on existing light poles, tier 2 is for installation on existing poles that are not for lights, and tiers 3 and 4 are where the licensee must install new poles. Verizon noted that they hoped to install 35 small cells (each with a half mile coverage radius), and Trustee Lish and I were both concerned about new poles being erected in undesirable areas, and also ensuring that other carriers can co-locate to minimize infrastructure. We learned that Xcel Energy has a policy that they will only allow one carrier per pole. After questions from Trustee Lacis, Town Manager Matt Magley said that Staff has had dialogue with AT&T about small cell technology, but that Sprint had not expressed any interest in discussing service improvements. The reason Verizon was in front of the Board was not because of an RFP or choice on the Board’s part, but because Verizon was simply the first / most interested in moving this forward.
As with the change in ordinance around wireless communication facilities, the Board decided not to approve the MLA on Monday night, until we can get more answers to our questions around deployment of 5G and installation locations.
Approval of Weldona Way Permanent Closure Improvements
Finally, the Board heard a presentation from Director of Transportation Alex Ariniello proposing a design for the permanent closure of the 88th / Weldona intersection. The design includes “grasscrete” (a lattice network of concrete where grass pokes up through to be more aesthetically pleasing) and heavy plastic bollards that can be driven over by emergency vehicles, but not cars. After questioning from Trustee Lacis, Director Ariniello said it also seemed possible that in an emergency, there would be room for a regular passenger car to drive over the sidewalk to quickly exit to the hospital. You can see the design here.
Dozens of residents spoke up in public comment, with all but one asking the Board to reconsider the closure altogether. The Board was presented with a resident survey, to which 64 of the 100 unique households that live on / off Weldona responded, with about half wanting it open and half wanting it closed. Given that this was a resident-conducted survey, and because it linked to an Open Weldona website, it wasn’t completely unbiased, but I still found it interesting that it was about 50/50, negating either side’s point of view that they were the majority and the other side was the vocal minority.
Director Ariniello presented traffic study data (linked here) on speed and volume before and after the temporary closure, but the data was only conducted over a two-day period for each reading, and the days were not apples-to-apples (e.g., we compared a Tuesday in August before schools opened with a late-start Wednesday in November). Trustee Shah and I asked a number of questions around this data, but I ultimately decided that it was inconclusive in proving the closure’s effectiveness at improving safety, both due to the nature of the comparison and also because the data showed that speed went up and volume decreased only 17%.
However, the purpose of this meeting was not to decide whether to re-open or permanently close the intersection, but evaluate the design plans for closure. Trustee Kevin Ryan and I voted against the plans for closure, both of us expressing concerns around the cost of the closure (the approval was for up to $65,000) and how this was being prioritized over other ways to spend the money. With the inconclusive data on traffic speeds and volumes, I didn’t think we should be spending that much money on a solution that hadn’t yet been proven to solve our problem. Furthermore, I would prefer to take a more holistic approach to safety across town, especially as we continue to add homes and development. I’d rather we establish both criteria for safety and a standard approach to mitigating issues (perhaps a progression of speed bumps, stop signs, and then a road closure), rather than making a one-off decision for this intersection while other residential roads have even higher speeds and volumes.
The rest of the Board did not agree with Trustee Ryan and I, and voted to approve the closure 5-2. Despite being in the minority, I still stand by my position; here is a copy of the statement I drafted during the meeting and read shortly before my vote.
There were a number of good points made here tonight, and also via email – on both sides of the argument. I don’t look at this as a pure numbers game, and want to assure residents that while the majority of citizens speaking here tonight want us to reconsider the closure, I’ve also been conversing with / meeting with / emailing with residents who are thrilled with the closure. However, what’s stood out to me most is that we’ve primarily been looking at this as a binary issue – open or close – rather than considering the various ways we can go about improving safety.
I am very reluctant to spend $65K with such limited data as to how effective this has been – both around speed and volume. Our data shows that speed has increased, and volume has decreased only 17%. Based on the dates surveyed, I would venture to guess this isn’t accurate, and would like to see us gather more data before spending money. Is this the most effective way to improve safety? Should alternatives be considered?
I appreciated that some residents put together a survey, but I do think it was biased in that it linked to an Open Weldona site and people who want the closure may not have felt comfortable responding. I’d be interested in seeing the results of a Town-sponsored survey, more data collection from the Town on speed / volume, and some creativity as to how we can solve issues of speed and volume.
Finally, I’d also really like to see this applied more broadly, and us take a holistic approach to safety across town. I live on Castle Peak, which has significantly higher speeds and volume than Weldona has ever had – why aren’t we spending money to fix safety on Castle Peak? Or on Yarrow, or on Pitkin, or other streets that have come up as one-offs? I am very much looking forward to next week’s Transportation & Safety Committee meeting, where I hope we can start conversations around a more comprehensive review of our town’s streets and safety rather than responding in a one-off manner.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read / listen to this recap – I hope it is helpful! Our Board is always open to hearing your comments, questions, and concerns – you may always email your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org, or to me specifically at email@example.com. As a reminder, any messages sent to a government email are part of the public record and will have your name attached; if you feel the need to write in anonymously, you may always comment at the bottom of my blog post recaps.
Have a great weekend!